Nigerian international footballer Brown Ideye has revealed the true life story of himself grown up in Ajegunle and as well when he played along Manchester United striker Odion Jude Ighalo in Secondary School back then.
A dramatic story has emerged about a former footballer that had the pleasure of captaining, the duo Odion Jude Ighalo and Aide Brown Ideye, when they were all still school boys and shaping their careers on the sandy ground of Maracana Pitch (aka Big Field) in Tolu area of Ajegunle, Lagos, as he says he is still enjoying tight relationships with both stars.
The Score Nigeria learnt that Banney was unable to take his career to the high level like how Ideye and Ighalo do, they both still hold him in high esteem, visit him at his base in United States of America and allow him into their homes when they are on holiday in Lagos, which makes him keep rejoicing with what he believes is a very fortunate situation for him among his coevals.
This is the astonishing tale of Paul Okwuchukwu Banney, a lad whose parents hailed from Ukwani in Delta State, but he grew up in Ajegunle area of Lagos, where he had the privilege of meeting both Ighalo and Ideye when they were still growing up in Olodi-Apapa vicinity of the suburb that is famed for the production of top stars like Emmanuel Amuneke, Samson Siasia, Tarila Okorowanta, Ifeanyi Udeze, Emmanuel Emenike and many others.
Those were the days when Banney was regarded as the most promising lad among the lot at Newland Secondary School and with AJ Lischester FC, a youth club that ruled Tolu and Boundary suburbs of Ajegunle, from where he starred for Santana Boys of Ojo, National Grassroots Dream of Surulere as well as FC Ebedei of Shagamu and subsequently had a short spell in Armenia.
While Banney also rubbed shoulders for a while with Peter Osaze Odemwingie at AS Racines of Apapa, Ideye went on to hit limelight with Ocean Boys of Brass and Ighalo rose quickly through the ranks with Coach Tiamiyu at Stationery Stores, from where he moved into national league action with Prime FC of Osogbo and then Julius Berger FC of Lagos in 2006.
Although their paths separated as they went their different ways in search of the golden fleece, and despite the fact that Banney could not make the same high marks his former ‘followers’ eventually got in their career, they all still remain in touch; to the extent that the other two even visit him once in a while in America, while he is also free to storm into their homes anytime.
Banney took to social with a photo splash of some happy moments he has had with both players in separate events or together, ranging from choice spots in Las Vegas and Washington DC, the Super Eagles’ camp in Houston, Texas, USA and their homes in Lagos, alongside other stars like Junior Lokosa, as well as a surprise encounter with legendary boxer, Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
Banney stated on social media: “I thank God for helping me that I am still in touch with Odion Ighalo and Brown; since our early days together, when I was their captain, up till now, we are still friends. We remain good friends.
“It has been very exciting with Odion Ighalo and Brown, I was their captain when we are young, now they are bigger stars than me, but they have not forgotten me.
Anytime we are in Lagos, we always see each other and we play holiday football sometimes. It is not everybody that has that kind of opportunity, especially as I don’t play active football again.
“Ideye was at Oshodi Second School, while Odion was at Ijoku Secondary School … in the same Tolu Complex at Ajegunle.
It was in the Governors Cup that I was their captain at that time and Odion used to come into the match in second half to play.
I and brown Ideye played regularly at AJ Lischester in Ajegunle; Odion also played there. Don Kefe was our team manager at that time.
“I can visit Odion’s house in Lagos any time I want, and has visited me in America before. Ideye also visited me and I was able to be with him during the Super Eagles’ camp in Houston, Texas, when they came for a friendly match some years ago, and we saw Mayweather together.
I also visited him when he was at West Brom in England.”
While taking a look back at his humble beginning and where he is now, Ighalo acknowledged that divine favour has helped him achieve the strides he has made in his football career, as he once declared:
“I was born in a ghetto in Ajegunle with nothing. I work hard to be where I’m today and with the Grace of God. You can do it too don’t give up. Impossible is nothing.”
Ideye added similar words, as he recounted: “Growing up in Ajegunle was rough and tough because you are exposed to dangerous things at a young age, but I have a mother who kept me grounded. I would probably have ended up in jail with gangs or have my life cut short by following criminal gangs.
Such beginnings gave me a mental toughness to stare challenges in the eyes today. Maybe I was lucky, but I think it was just by the grace of God.”